Manchester

Tameside councillor 'teased with Britney photos online'

Britney Spears Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption American singer Britney Spears is best known for hits such as Oops, I did It Again

Members of a council have been urged to stop "slagging each other off" online - as it emerged one was taunted with pictures of Britney Spears.

Tameside councillor Jim Fitzpatrick said Liam Billington had accused him of being "obsessed" with the US pop star.

The episode was among several which had offended members and "could be deemed bullying", a meeting heard.

Councillor Ged Cooney led calls for the Labour-run authority to update its "weak" social media code of conduct.

Mr Cooney heard reports of members calling each other liars online, or bringing up their sexuality amid political debates.

'Childish behaviour'

As councillors listed instances where they had felt personally attacked by other members on social media, Hyde councillor Mr Fitzpatrick quoted some of the tweets he said he "had to put up with"

These included a "political discussion" with Mr Billington which had descended "into him sending me cartoons or pictures of Britney Spears for some reason, saying I'm obsessed", he said.

"I don't know why he needs to do that, he can quite easily debate with me but it does descend into that sort of childish behaviour for some reason," he said.

Mr Fitzpatrick said he had also been called a liar - which he branded "unacceptable", according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

Image copyright PA
Image caption Councillors have been urged to moderate their conduct when interacting online

Another councillor, Clive Patrick, said he believed his homosexuality had been used in a Twitter post to try to discredit him in the run-up to the 2012 election.

'Little y-fronts'

Conservative Mr Patrick said: "I'm open with my sexuality, I couldn't care less.

"But just before the election nobody can deny that that was not put out to inform the people. I've never had an apology from a certain Jim Fitzpatrick for that, but that happened and that hurt."

Mr Cooney, who chairs the democratic processes working group, was responding to a recommendation a code of conduct be introduced to govern councillors' behaviour around elections.

He told the meeting he would like to see the policy in use at all times.

Councillor Cooney told the assembled members not to act like internet "trolls", urging them to "use the language of politics rather than personalities".

"We're not keyboard warriors sat with our little y-fronts on, we're elected members dealing with people's issues," he said.

"When you go onto the internet and you attack each other, in certain manners, it's bullying," Mr Cooney said.

Council leader Brenda Warrington extended an offer to the Conservative group to meet her to establish a joint social media code of conduct.

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